About Your Ketamine Infusion Treatment

Time to Read: About 6 minutes

This information explains what to expect during your ketamine infusion treatment at the Josie Robertson Surgery Center (JRSC) at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK).

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About Ketamine Infusion Therapy

Ketamine is a medication used to help you manage neuropathic pain (nerve pain) during and after your cancer treatment. Ketamine infusion slows down your pain-sensing nerves that send pain messages to your brain. This may reduce your pain level and makes you feel relaxed. The infusion may bring you pain relief over the next few days and weeks.

Your doctor may recommend you have ketamine infusion therapy if you:

  • Have side effects from other pain medications.
  • Don’t get enough relief from other pain medications.
  • Have pain that is difficult to control.

Ketamine infusion therapy works quickly. You may start feeling better right away.

Each treatment session lasts 4 to 6 hours. You may want to bring a book or music to help pass the time during your session.

Most people get long-term pain relief (pain relief lasting at least 1 month) after 2 or 3 sessions. Once this pain relief happens, you may continue receiving therapy. Most people receive treatment once a month. Your doctor will discuss with you how often you should receive treatment.

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1 Week Before Your Treatment

Arrange for someone to take you home

After your treatment, you may feel drowsy and won’t be able to drive. You must have a responsible care partner take you home after your procedure or your discharge may be delayed. You must make these arrangements before the day of your treatment. Your nurse will ask you for the name and phone number of the person who will be taking you home after your treatment.

If you don’t have someone, call one of the agencies below to arrange for transportation. They will send someone to take you home. However, there’s usually a charge for this service and you’ll need to provide transportation.

Agencies in New York                                         Agencies in New Jersey
Partners in Care: 888-735-8913                                         Caring People: 877-227-4649
Caring People: 877-227-4649                                          


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The Day of Your Treatment

‌   Do not eat anything after midnight. Drink only clear liquids from midnight to 2 hours before your treatment. Do not drink anything starting 2 hours before your treatment.


Follow a clear liquid diet

You will need to follow a clear liquid diet the day of your treatment. A clear liquid diet includes only liquids you can see through. Examples are listed in the “Clear Liquid Diet” table.

While you’re following this diet:

  • Don’t eat any solid foods.
  • Try to drink at least 1 (8-ounce) glass of clear liquid every hour while you’re awake.
  • Drink different types of clear liquids. Don’t just drink water, coffee, and tea.
  • Don’t drink sugar-free liquids unless you have diabetes and a member of your healthcare team tells you to do so.

For people with diabetes

If you have diabetes, ask the healthcare provider who manages your diabetes what you should do while you’re following a clear liquid diet.

  • If you take insulin or another medication for diabetes, ask if you need to change the dose.
  • Ask if you should drink sugar-free clear liquids.

While you’re following a clear liquid diet, make sure to check your blood sugar level often. If you have any questions, talk with your healthcare provider.

Clear Liquid Diet
  OK to Drink Do Not Drink
  • Clear broth, bouillon, or consommé
  • Any products with pieces of dried food or seasoning
  • Gelatin (such as Jell-O®)
  • Flavored ices
  • Hard candies (such as Life Savers®)
  • All others
  • Clear fruit juices (such as lemonade, apple, cranberry, and grape juices)
  • Soda (such as ginger ale, 7UP®, Sprite®, and seltzer)
  • Sports drinks (such as Gatorade® or Powerade®)
  • Black coffee
  • Tea
  • Water
  • Juices with pulp
  • Nectars
  • Smoothies or shakes
  • Milk or cream
  • Alcoholic drinks

Things to remember

  • Wear something comfortable and loose-fitting.
  • Take your pain medication and other medications as you normally do.
  • Arrive on time. Your treatment may have to be rescheduled if you arrive late.
    • If you’re going to be late, call 646-888-7046 after and leave a message with the charge nurse or unit assistant.
  • You will need to give your nurse the name and phone number of the person or car service that will be taking you home after your treatment. If you don’t have this information, your treatment may be rescheduled.

Visitor policy changes during COVID-19

  • To keep patients, staff, and visitors safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, we may change our visitor policy more often than usual. Visit www.mskcc.org/visit for the most up-to-date information.

Where to park

You won’t be able to drive for the rest of the day after your treatment. You must have someone drive you to and from your appointment.

The JRSC is located at:

1133 York Avenue
(between East 61st and East 62nd Streets)
New York, NY 10065

There are several options for parking at the JRSC. There’s a valet service at the JRSC entrance. If you use this service, the valet will park your car next door in the City Parking garage. The valet service is free, but you will need to pay the parking garage fee when you leave the JRSC. For more information about parking, call 646-888-7100.

If you choose not to use our valet service, there are nearby garages. You will have to pay to park in these garages.

What to expect

When you arrive

  • When you arrive for your appointment, you will be directed to the check-in area on the third floor.
  • Check in at the reception desk. Once you’re checked in, have a seat in the waiting area. A staff member will meet you and bring you to the treatment suite.
  • A staff member is available on the third floor to answer questions you may have while you wait.

During your treatment

Your nurse will talk with you about your treatment and answer your questions. They will also ask you questions about your pain level. Your nurse will use your responses to adjust the medication for your treatment. You can learn more about describing your pain by watching our video How to Describe Your Cancer Pain.

During your treatment, you will be lying on a bed with a pillow and blanket. Your nurse will help you get comfortable and will place an intravenous (IV) line into your arm. The IV line will be connected to a machine that will give you low doses of ketamine. This should make you feel relaxed. Your nurse will be monitoring your body temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and oxygen throughout your treatment but may not be in your room the whole time. If you need anything while your nurse is out of your room, you can use the call bell to reach them.

Your treatment will take 4 to 6 hours.

You may feel nauseous and drowsy at the start of your treatment. If you feel uncomfortable at any point, tell your nurse. They will adjust your treatment to make you feel better.

When your session is finished, you will stay in the treatment suite for about 1 hour to recover from your treatment.

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After Your Treatment

  • Your nurse will go over any discharge instructions you have to follow after your treatment.
  • You will feel drowsy right after your treatment. You should spend the rest of your day resting.
  • You may have other side effects. Your doctor will give you more information.
  • Don’t sign any important documents or make any important decisions for 24 hours after your treatment. You may feel drowsy and not fully alert.
  • Don’t drive for the rest of the day after your treatment.
  • You can follow your normal diet after your treatment.
  • You can go back to doing your usual activities the day after your treatment.
  • Continue taking your pain medication, unless your doctor or nurse tells you to stop.
  • A nurse will call you 1 to 3 days after your treatment to see how you’re feeling.
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When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

Call your healthcare provider if you have:

  • Nausea (feeling like you’re going to throw up)
  • Vomiting (throwing up)
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Any questions or concerns
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Contact Information

If you have any of these side effects after your treatment, call the Anesthesia Pain Service at 212-639-6851. You can reach us Monday through Friday from to If it’s after , during the weekend, or on a holiday, call 212-639-2000 and ask for the anesthesia pain person on call.
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